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Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail, AZ

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Guide 19 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > North Rim
4.1 of 5 by 9
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 3.29 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,311 feet
Elevation Gain 329 feet
Accumulated Gain 617 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.35
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
30  2018-04-15
Grand Canyon River Running
8  2016-10-28
Deer Creek - Tapeats - Thunder River Loop
20  2016-10-12
Bill Hall Trail
65  2016-04-09
Grand Canyon River Running
15  2015-10-28
Thunder River / Deer Creek Loop
44  2015-10-26
Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ
69  2015-10-09
Thunder River / Deer Creek Loop
19  2014-10-25
Bill Hall - Deer Crk - Thunder River - Tapeats
Page 1,  2,  3
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 74
Routes 667
Photos 13,162
Trips 1,416 map ( 10,534 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Feb, Mar, Jan → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:12am - 6:38pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
River Walk
by chumley

This is a regularly used route that connects Deer Creek Camp (AX7) with Lower Tapeats Creek (AW8). It is not a maintained trail, and involves scrambling, short climbs, and loose footing on steep rocky slopes.

This description explains the route from west to east, but can just as easily be traveled from Tapeats to Deer Creek.

The hike begins by crossing to the east side of Deer Creek just above the "Patio". Cairns mark the well-worn route up a steady 300-foot ascent to a saddle in the first .025 miles. The next 0.25 miles descends 200 feet before crossing a drainage and leveling out. (Along the way, you pass a cairned junction for a more precarious route that parallels this route a couple of hundred feet lower along cliffs just above the river.)

The next 1.25 miles is a fairly steady traverse with expansive views of the canyon while making it's way around a couple of small drainages before dropping steeply back to the river at the 2 mile mark. (This is also where the lower route re-joins this route).

The remaining 1.25 miles of the route crosses a variety of terrain: deep sand, river rock, and typical inner-canyon rocky terrain. At the 2.75 mile mark, the route passes Bonita Creek and requires a steep climb up a loose slope. Shortly before arriving at the mouth of Tapeats Creek, you pass an open campsite (AM9) along the Colorado before reaching the designated camp at Lower Tapeats (AW8).

East of the creek is a boat beach where rafters often park for day hikes to Thunder River.

All overnight use in Grand Canyon National Park requires a permit obtainable from the Backcountry Office. Designated camps are available at both ends of this route, and permits for dispersed camping are available along the river. Rafters may day-hike this route without an additional permit.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2014-10-21 chumley
  • Grand Canyon Use Area Boundaries - Dynamic Map

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Deer Creek - Tapeats - Thunder River Loop
FR22 to Bill Hall TH was in very good condition. Only two shallow pools across the entire road were of slight concern. Most could navigate a Yugo. I'd imagine it gets messy in the mud after rain. Currently it's 2wd for drivers with a clue.

After twenty two miles through a maze of forest the Bill Hall TH was almost full. We passed several one to two inch shallow pools in the pockets of the Esplanade.

Surprise Valley sage has a crisp scent that raises your head to fully inquire.

My first trip two years ago was a shock treatment of wow. This round I came back with a better understanding of the surrounding area. We crossed paths with several groups going both directions. One group camped in Surprise Valley then did the loop as a day hike. Only a couple of them even had day packs, oh the jealousy.

Russ brought his daughter Katie. With no recent hikes this journey started cursing her world 8 miles in on day 1. Despite blisters, shaky legs and regurgitating reflexes she defeated the odds! This was my second hike with Fan. Realized she is resilient and adaptable. Appreciate that she let us drive her car. Especially since she replaced the wind chimes on the mirror with a quiet stuffed pillow!

Despite trying to talk someone* out of eating at the crap hole inn we finally got our gasping dry burgers on stale ciabatta in a couple hours.

Big thanks to * for putting together this group hike, most appreciated!
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Deer Creek - Thunder River Loop
Limited days off leads to some epic hiking.

Friday night Jamie, myself and our North Rim buddy Kevin drove to Monument Point.

Spotted a GORGEOUS bobcat on FR206!

It poured.

Our tent stake camp out in the toe of the tent. Our down bags and my new down puffy were soaked.
Oh well, onward!

We awoke with the sun...uhhh...the dim haze that may have been the sun that just barely shone through a.thick cloud cover and gentle misting I said....onward!!

Saturday morning we shimmied down from the Rim to the Esplanade, checked out some rock art then went on down in Surprise Valley. It really is a surprise isn't it! First time I'd seen it, SO pretty!

The break down into SV is a knee jammer but it went swiftly and smoothly for we three.

(On a side note, Cogswell Butte is now in my sights and we'll be tackling it and Bridger's Knoll on our next trip out there...anyone want in on this let me know? I'll get the permits!)

Quick break at the junction then hung a right down toward Deer Creek. Surprise Valley is quiet and quick walking!

The amount of Limestone in this break made me swoon, Limestone bites are the best! There's one section that requires what some might consider scrambling.
Jamie sent me over it first and described me as "dancing" across the rock. Sounds about right.
Awesome scree chute down to The Throne Room, be careful on that! Whoo!

Deer Creek Springs at the Throne Room was bone dry... :(
Last time I saw this was also my first, back in March 2015 from our private river trip and it was a gusher!
We'll be back on another river trip in December, wonder if it will be flowing then...

The Patio was covered in mud and Deer Creek itself was mud mud muddy!!
We set up in the campsite and had the place to ourselves all night. Saw a small private trip down at the falls, they went up as we came down, it was raining and slippery as all!! Watch your step!
The Creek was higher than last year and the Falls louder, we almost held our breath awaiting a flash!! Lucky us, no flash. He river runners left, we had dinner on the Patio and went to bed to a drizzling rain.

Next morning is day 2, Sunday, we will camp on the Esplanade tonight but first we have to complete the loop.
Up out of the Patio we rode the low route from DC to Tapeats Creek, it was warm but not stifling hot...strange for August thank goodness for clouds.

I played in the river, we watched dories sweep by, no beers, the 135mi Eddy is too hard to maneuver in and out of before the rifle.

Tapeats Creek was clear! We headed up he break, slip sliding and enjoying the views.

This one break up from Tapeats Creek is the reason I'm SO grateful Jamie suggested a counterclockwise loop! I would not enough going DOWN that break, it's doable and safe-ish, but with a loaded pack it'd be a *****!

I'd suggest counterclockwise to any new folk considering this loop.

Sea Turtle Falls in Tapeats Creek was shortly after our first crossing, the creek was flowing nicely, Jamie said it's slightly deeper than usual and evidence pointed to some "overflowing" of the banks in the past few days but again, we were lucky!

Up the Creek was quick, warm and easy moving! We crossed again below Thunder River and began the climb up, up, up it goes!

Every twist in the trail opened up new views, wow!
We spent an hour and a half at Thunder River way up top, and as tradition mandates we.filled direct from the source, no filtering needed, yummmmm! Best water ever!
Ate dinner here and dried our socks in the sun.

Up we went again into Surprise Valley where we stopped to check out The Blue Eyed Indian, then across the smooth, quick and silent Valley, the sun setting in our eyes as we head west.

Started up the Redwall break towed the Esplanade well before the sun said it's goodnights.

About a quarter mile from the top of the break we turned on our headlamps and visions of warm sleeping bags danced in our heads.

Jamie played with his camera and got some Gorgeous clear night sky shots, the milky way lit up our tent and my socks dried on the bushes nearby...

Monday morning, we sauntered out on stiff toes well after the sunrose, yesterday was a lot of UP even for a Canyon junkie haha
We were out before 11am and dilly-dallied at the trail head enjoying the views cloudless sky afforded us today!

All in all this was easier than anticipated.
I definitely suggest a counterclockwise loop because Thunder River draws you up up up and is a stellar place to kick back before that last push to surprise Valley.

Deer Creek is amazing but it wouldn't have the motivation for me as TR Did...also that break up Tapeats Creek would be a pain in the butt to down climb for new folk...i dunno why Backpacker magazine suggests a clockwise loop...anyone know why??
Counterclockwise just makes more sense!

Anyway...awesome weekend. Back to work...I'm serious about anyone wanting to tackle Bridger's Knoll and Cogswell Butte though...let me know, they look relatively "easy"... :lol:
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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This is my third Colorado River rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Wade and I did the same trip two years ago in 2014--a 12-day hiking-intensive rafting trip with Hatch River Expeditions. I love this trip! Wade gave this to me for my 62nd birthday. This time; however, I went alone. Wade did not want to go as he's "Been there, Done that!" I was quite worried about the weather as it was supposed to rain the majority of the time based on weather reports at Phantom Ranch. God was looking out for us as the weather was perfect! We traveled from Lee's Ferry all the way to Whitmore Wash, 188 miles down the Colorado River taking in both the Upper and Lower Canyon. These motor rigs are 35' in length and 16' wide powered by a 30-horsepower, four-stroke motor. They have two tubes on the sides with you can ride in rapids if you want a great thrill! There were only 9 passengers and three crew on the upper canyon trip. Four hiked out at the Bright Angel Trail near Phantom Ranch leaving only 5 of us to go the full 12 days. 24 people hiked down from the South Rim to meet the boats at Pipe Creek for the next 6 days. If you've never done this trip, I highly recommend saving your $$ for this trip of a life time. It's not cheap, but worth every penny if you are adventurous, love to hike fairly difficult hikes and don't mind camping on the beach every night. You'll get to HATE SAND! But, heck, it's only sand. I will write more about his trip when I edit this triplog later. Some of the hikes that I can't find links to on HAZ include Saddle Canyon, the confluence of the Little Colorado River, Miner's Camp (North Bass Trail.) I'm doing my best to keep my "being" below the rim. I'm just not ready for real life yet, but it is nice to have a hot shower!
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ
Day 1
Despite getting lost on the way to the trailhead by a Ranger supplied incorrect map, getting rained on at 1:30 am in the back of my pickup after a 4 day 0% chance forecast, and an aggravated nerve in my back from scar tissue sending flashes of pain through my shoulder and arm with each step, I made my way toward Monument Point in the dark with a smile on my face. The rain had stopped and the smells and sounds of the North Rim swirled around me, the Canyon to my left a beautiful abyss of silence, it's depth beyond the reach of my tiny headlamp. After 8 trips, my love for this place has only grown deeper. I hope someday to travel the world with my wife and see other amazing places, but I know now this will always be Home.
The down climb at the alcove wasn't bad - somewhat polished and slippery but big holds everywhere. I had planned on seeing the Esplanade in morning light, but unfortunately the overcast skies lent no color to the amazing sandstone. I kept an eye open for good camp sites for my return, and cached 3 x 32 oz. water bottles before I headed down the red wall. Surprise Valley was easy going, with the descent to Deer Spring punctuated with killer views and the wonderful arrival of the sound of falling water. I spent almost an hour and a half at the amazing Throne Room, enjoying the sound of Deer Spring as I had lunch, relaxed, and enjoyed all 12 thrones for good measure.
Heading down to Deer Creek I met 3 guys in their 20's from Kingman who had just passed Deer Spring without even stopping in (?). We would leapfrog for the rest of the day, with me moving faster but stopping often for pictures and video. The Patio arrived and did not disappoint my high expectations, the narrow ledges not as bad as I thought, and the down climb to Deer Creek Falls more work than I expected. After cooling off at the spectacular falls, I started back up, noticing the 3 guys trying to head east along the river. I asked them if they were trying to get to Lower Tapeats, and they said yes. After a short talk it was apparent how poorly prepared they were. No map, no information on the river route at all. I shared my info with them and we all hiked back up to the Patio for the River Route turnoff and headed toward camp as the inner canyon filled with shadow, and finally darkness. I reached Lower Tapeats at 6:20 pm, the 14 mile day taking it's toll, and I was in bed by 8.
Day 2
Woke up and met Frank, Kevin, and Mark while breaking camp. They were turning back on a loop attempt in the opposite direction. Frank was 71 and though quite the bad :pk: back in the day, he was really struggling. They informed me that Tapeats Creek was running high from all the rain, and the crossings impossible - requiring the far less desirable western route. I went up to the crossing just in case, but ended up opting for the west as well. Obnoxious. Huge up and downs with little forward travel, really steep, slippery off camber shale sections with lethal exposure. I was glad to reach Upper Tapeats Camp.
I had hoped to explore up the Creek, but with the high water I ended up spending the afternoon exploring the amphitheater above camp, as well as some serious housekeeping. The older trio arrived and hung out for a while. Fascinating group - ex-owner of an aerospace company, a CFO and a CEO, all involved in charities to help orphans from developing countries. One had a rescue farm with over 30 large animals, and another 3 adopted children from places including Kazakhstan.
Awesome to see rich people doing the Right Thing.
Day 3
Hit the trail and enjoyed early light on Thunder River. A perfect climax to the sound of water nonstop for the last 40 hours. What a place.
The relative quiet of Surprise Valley arrived, and then a trip up the red wall as the air warmed up. I picked up my water and was happy as a clam to find my 1st choice site not taken! Once again I had time to explore a bit - I have to say the views may not be as big on the 'Nade, but the terrain is awesome slickrock.
Had a great evening - my only decent sunset color, followed by a blast with camera and tripod, topped off with my only visible full moon rise for the trip!
Day 4
Up before dawn as usual, this time thanking my choice of campsite. The overhang provided shelter to break camp under the light rain that had begun. The trip up Bill Hall was really enjoyable - without any real wind I was able to use my GoLite umbrella. The gentle cadence of raindrops and footfall, the smell of evergreen and wet earth made for a perfect ending to the hike.

There are a few really good videos on YouTube of this hike. Solid camera work, informative maps and graphics, etc.
Mine isn't one of them. ... r2_c

Post Hike
Checked out Crazy Jug on the way out- very cool formations below and some good views of the canyon.
Checked into the North Rim Campground and took the Transept Trail to the Lodge. I had been here 40 years ago but don't remember much. Love the overlooks, Bright Angel Point kicks :pk: .
After a fizzle sunset, I invited some guys I met from the U.K., Colorado, and North Dakota over from their dark camps to my fire of dry wood I had brought up. Will was on Holiday with about 5K in camera gear, and Chris and Johnny were in AZ to see Tool in Phoenix. They had a bottle of Caduceus, and I some heavy Malbec, which paired perfectly with the cold wind and warm fire. The conversation flowed, with comparisons of Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer mixed in with explanations of white balance settings. Sufficiently toasted, we wandered off to tents when the wood ran out and the rain began anew. The wind picked up as well, and by morning a layer of ice covered everything as we all met for a sunrise jaunt out to the Point. Once again, cloud cover kind of killed it, and we all decided to hit the road.
Snow covered the trees all the way to Jacob lake, and the drive back across the Vermillion Cliffs was gorgeous.
I don't know when I'll be back to the North Rim. It's a long drive -
but sometimes you have to drive a long way to get Home.
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Thunder River / Deer Creek Loop
After several hikes on the corridor trails, I decided it was time to expand our family's Grand Canyon experience to the backcountry! : rambo : Reading the triplogs of others and viewing the breathtaking photos, it was an easy choice to put the Thunder River-Deer Creek loop at the top of the list. So, with my wife and three of our kids (16, 13, and 12), we tackled our first "primitive" trail in the GC.

What a fantastic place! :y:

I put in a permit application for 6 on the first of June for an October permit, with the idea of going over fall break in my kids' school schedule. The NPS website says that all request received by 5 pm on the first of the month are eligible for "earliest consideration" and are randomly ordered for processing. I know October is a popular month for this hike, so perhaps not surprisingly, I didn't get my first (or second) choice on dates or camp locations. :| But, with the help and advice of the HAZ forum, I was able to work out an itinerary that turned out to be great. :thanx:

Day 1 (Thursday)--travel and camp on the rim near the Bill Hall TH;
We traveled up from Phoenix on Thursday with the intent of camping on the rim near the trailhead and getting an early start on Friday morning. The drive up was uneventful. We stopped for cookies at Jacob Lake, then headed down Hwy 67 towards the rim. There are several ways to access the trailhead, some more direct than others. Ultimately, we decided to take the NPS recommended route (FSR22 to FSR425 to FSR292, then 292A), even though it's one of the less direct routes (about 30 miles from Hwy 67). Despite the fact that it had rained for several days earlier in the week, the roads were in great condition. With the exception of a a couple of mud puddles near the very end of the trail, the bulk of the off-road ride is sedan-capable.

We arrived at Crazy Jug Point just in time to watch the sunset over the western horizon on the Canyon. 8) The main camping spot at the point was occupied (and, in any event, was not really in an ideal location, in my opinion [surrounded by trees w/ no direct view over the canyon]), so we continued down the road toward the TH until we found a fantastic camping spot with an established fire ring, right on the edge of the the Canyon. There were at least 2 or 3 other, similar campsites along the last mile of the road to the trailhead.

We set up camp, enjoyed some dinner and conversation around the fire, and then hit the hay. Despite the rainy weather earlier in the week, the forecast for our trip was nothing but sunny and clear days and moonless (i.e., star-filled) nights. The Milky Way was in full-view overhead, punctuated by frequent shooting stars.

Day 2 (Friday)--Hike from Bill Hall TH to camp at Upper Tapeats Campground (11.0 mi.)
After breakfast in the morning, we reorganized our packs a bit and took the short drive to the trailhead. The parking area was rather full (approx. 25 cars).

We shouldered our packs and had our first discovery of the trip--water is heavy! :pk: Each of us carried an extra gallon that we planned to cache along the route, which we did in three places: (1) 2 gallons near the Thunder River Trail junction (2.6 mi. in, at the bottom of the first descent); 1 gallon at the southern edge of the Esplanade just before the redwall break down to Surprise Valley (5.4 mi. in); and 2 gallons about halfway down the western fork in Surprise Valley (on the way to Deer Creek, where we planned to spend our final night).

The initial descent from Monument Point was our first introduction to "primitive" trails. I wasn't too surprised, but my 12-year-old daughter was not a fan. :scared: She was tentative at first, but gained confidence as we went and overall did great on the hike. All of us on the trip had done the one-day rim-to-rim at least once (my two youngest finished our most recent crossing with me just a couple of weeks before this trip), and my kids all run cross-country, so I knew they were in good shape. The other thing that helped was hiking poles. I'm not usually a fan of hiking poles, but they proved invaluable in this steep, rocky, and uneven terrain, particularly with the added balance issues of carrying a loaded backpack along the sometimes exposed ledges.

We were prepared for the somewhat tricky downclimb at 1.5 mi., and nearly all managed to downclimb with packs on. No ropes needed in my view. At worst, remove the pack and hand it down to someone standing below.

After the 49-switchbacks and joint-grinding, steep descent to the Thunder River Trail junction, we were glad to reach the flat reprieve of the Esplanade. The Sedona-like sandstone formations were very cool, and we had the benefit of seeing the area after some good rain. Many of the "potholes" in the rock were filled with water, and made for nice pools to dip our feet in and cool down before our descent into Surprise Valley.

By the time we reached Surprise Valley, the sun was heating up and the valley was living up to its reputation as a natural oven :guilty: --my mini-thermometer was registering in the upper 90s. At the Deer Creek/Thunder River fork, my son and I dropped our packs and headed down the western (Deer Creek) trail in search of a decent camping spot and place to cache our final 2-gallons of water for our last night in the canyon. As expected, we didn't see any super-appealing camping spots, but didn't want to expend a lot of time/energy searching, so after about .2 mi., we settled on a spot that was do-able, cached our water, and headed back to the fork to continue our trek over the Thunder River.

The water in our camelbacks lasted us to the edge of Surprise Valley. Thankfully, by that point, we had Thunder Spring "in view" (and well prior to that, within "earshot") and the final, east-facing descent was shaded as the afternoon sun dropped towards the western horizon. A half-mile of steep down-climbing later, we were drinking from Thunder Spring and admiring the power and beauty of the shortest named river in the world (.5 mi.). :DANCE:

I wanted to stay longer at the spring, but my crew was ready to put their feet up at camp after a long day of hiking, so we soldiered on, passing a rattlesnake who said "hello" to us in their typical fashion, before slithering off under a nearby rock. I had intentions of heading back up in the morning, but after realizing that it was about a mile and 800-900 ft of elevation gain to go back from the campground, I contented myself with a lot of photos on the continued hike down in the pleasant early evening light. 8)

When we arrived at Upper Tapeats (around 6 pm), the two primary campsites were occupied, with a single couple occupying the larger site. The info said there was a third site, but the only area that seemed to look like a third site was too small to accommodate our three tents. The couple at the large site graciously offered to move to the smaller site, as they were planning to get up at 4 a.m. for a long hike out in the morning. We were grateful! :thanx:

Mountain House dinner never tasted so good, and we followed it up with an evening dip in Tapeats Creek to cool off our trail-weary feet.

With our food all secured in Outsaks for the night, we managed to escape unscathed by the marauding mice. [-X

Once again, the moonless night allowed expansive views of the nighttime skies as we tried to get some shut-eye. I never sleep very well while camping, but it was particularly challenging on this trip, as every night felt like Christmas Eve, packed with anticipation of the gifts of Mother Nature that I was going to be experiencing the next day!

Day 3 (Saturday)--Hike from Upper Tapeats to dispersed camp on a sandy beach of the Colorado at 135-mi. rapids
Saturday was our short day--about 4 miles of hiking. We were in no hurry to get out of the shady canyon of Tapeats Creek and into the hot sun along the Colorado River, so we took our time getting ready in the morning and then made a "field trip" back up to the confluence of Thunder River and Tapeats Creek, where we enjoyed some cool, jacuzzi baths and waterfall massages, before packing up camp an heading downstream.

We chose the NPS-recommended route along the east side of the creek, and found both creek crossings very manageable. Likewise, the two potentially tricky (but short) downclimbs along the east side were not much to get concerned about, and again, we generally managed to navigate them with packs on.

Just upstream from the crossing back to the west of the trail, we stopped at an overlook of the falls, which some call the "Niagara of Tapeats Creek," due to its horseshoe shape. At the creek crossing itself was a nice, shaded rock overhang where we stopped to have lunch. Being in no hurry, we threw on the water shoes and hiked right up the creek, back to the falls and enjoyed playing in, around--and even behind--the falls.

After lunch, we crossed the creek for good and enjoyed the somewhat exposed hike along west wall of the Tapeats drainage, as the narrows plunged farther and farther below. The steep scramble down to Lower Tapeats Campground was interesting and a little slow-going. At the confluence, the Colorado was still flowing "chocolate" from the recent rains, though the clear skies and direct sunlight had temps well into the 90's. A couple who we had met at Upper Tapeats and who were spending the night at Lower Tapeats and had arrived earlier invited us to join them in the the shade of one of the only trees in the area capable of providing much shade. We gratefully obliged, and then headed over to the creek to do some filtering in preparation for our dry camp another 1.5 miles down river.

We timed our filtering job just right, so that as we were shouldering our packs for the final trek of the day, the canyon shadows began to fall on the north bank of the river, protecting us from the afternoon sun.

Shortly after leaving Lower Tapeats, my youngest daughter twisted her ankle on an easy, non-descript, and relatively flat portion of the trail along the river (while successfully having just navigated well over 5,500 ft. of difficult, steep, rocky descending). :doh: Thankfully, after a short break, an ankle wrap, and an ibuprofen, she was back in hiking mode and managed the rest of the trip with little discomfort.

The big obstacle of the day was the steep and slippery downclimb just before the mouth of the Bonita Creek drainage. Of course, we had read all of the HAZ descriptions and seen the photos of this one, so we knew what to expect. I brought a 30' piece of 8mm rope, which we tied to the tree at the top and used as support to make the downclimb. I made several trips up and back to ferry down packs and then provide support from below, as my kids and wife downclimbed using the rope. My son went down with backpack on. Once all were down, I climbed up one final time to retrieve the rope. Although a rope-less descent wasn't too bad without my backpack on, I would consider a rope close to necessary for going down with a backpack on. 30' was sufficient length to get you down the steepest section.

As we were navigating the downclimb, a rafting group passed by on the rapids next to the cliff and provided some entertainment for us. They pulled in for camp just down stream on the south bank, and we leapfrogged them on our way to our campsite on the north-side beach, at 135-mi. rapids, just below where the trail veers away from the River and up the walls of the Granite Narrows.

Our campsite on the beach was awesome and my favorite of the trip! :y: Thanks to HAZ member Mazatzal for cluing me into the fact that the Surprise Valley Use Area (AM9) goes all the way down to the river! We ditched the tent for the night and slept under the stars with unobstructed views of the the heavens above (saw at least a dozen shooting stars) and were lulled to sleep by the soothing, rumbling sounds of the nearby, churning River.

Day 4 (Sunday)--Hike to Deer Creek and the falls, then up to dispersed camp in Surprise Valley
We didn't get an early enough start on Sunday morning to avoid the sun on the exposed climb away from the River and over to Deer Creek, which turned out to be a hot, sweaty grind, albeit with nice views of the River and the Canyon along its narrowest section.

Arriving at the Deer Creek patio around 11 a.m., we shed the packs and ate lunch before heading down to what I anticipated to be the trip highlight--Deer Creek Falls! The traverse along the edge of the narrows was exciting, and although the exposure is real, I found it less disconcerting in real life than I did in watching others traverse it in videos and photos. Unfortunately, our mid-day arrival made for poor lighting in the narrows for purposes of photography. Oh well.

Deer Creek falls was absolutely, as advertised. Incredible! The spray from the mist at the base of the falls was so refreshing, but also made it difficult to get some photos without having the lense first covered up with water droplets! We had the falls all to ourselves for some time. Two rafting groups were also in the vicinity, but by the time they made there way to the falls, we were more or less on our way out.

After backtracking to the patio and picking up our packs, we headed up to the camp area, where we changed out of our water shoes in preparation for the hike up to Deer Spring and Surprise Valley. While doing so, the couple who shared the shade with us in Lower Tapeats approached us and said they had room for seven on their permit for the Deer Creek campsite, but since 5 in their party had bailed, we were welcome to stay with them for the night, instead of heading up to Surprise Valley. We were grateful for the offer, and Deer Creek is a beautiful area (especially compared to Surprise Valley), but ultimately we decided we would be better off getting one of the 3 big climbs under our belt today, instead of having to do the whole enchilada in one day. So, we politely declined and pressed on towards Deer Spring, where we intended to fill up on water for another dry camp in Surprise Valley.

As we climbed toward Deer Spring in the shade of the late afternoon, I kept listening for the sound of the spring and looking for water in the drainage. By mileage and elevation, I knew we were getting close, but still no sign of water. Finally, the tell-tale crack in the canyon wall appeared but, to my surprise, no water was flowing from the spring at all. :o If we had known that, we would have tanked up at Deer Creek. The thought of going back down at this point was unappealing, both in terms of elevation and time. As we got right up to the spring, there was still a residual pool of water, from which we could filter. However, it was a little tougher filtering than what we had been used to. We took turns on the filters and in the off-time, relaxed a bit in the nearby "throne room." As the time ticked by, we decided to eat our dinner at the spring and prepared to climb out to Surprise Valley in the dark.

My biggest concern was navigation. I had researched the trail to know that this section is both difficult, not only because of the steep elevation gain, but also the rocky terrain which crosses numerous small washes and other obstacles that make it very easy to lose the trail. So, with a bit of trepidation, we donned our headlamps and headed up--nearly straight up from where the deer creek trail meets the side trail to the spring. :scared:

Finding cairns became the task at hand, as the trail was very indistinct in places, and in the absence of any sunlight (and no moon), other visual clues that normally make navigation easier (e.g., being able to see a more distinct stretch of trail further down in a particular direction, or to line up more than one set of cairns, or to seen signs of foot traffic in the dirt or worn sections of rock) were unavailable to us. Even when we were able to locate a cairn, it wasn't always obvious which direction to head from that point. We got off track more than once, but with the exception of one section (where I climbed up about a 100 ft. of particularly steep canyon wall, thinking we needed to get one band higher before wrapping around an outcropping), were able to correct ourselves without too much wasted energy. My kids, meanwhile, entertained themselves, by keeping track of how many spiders, scorpions, and stink bugs they saw as we made the 1.5 mi., 1300 ft.climb to the junction with the Surprise Valley connector trail. Ultimately, I adopted a "Flatiron" mentality, telling myself that the goal is to climb up the drainage. And even though there was no moon, the starlight allowed me to pick out the outline of Cogswell Butte against the dark sky at the southern end of Surprise Valley as a bearing point.

At length, we made it to the junction and breathed a sigh of relief, as the terrain leveled out and we knew our water cache was near by. :pray: We veered left at the junction and headed towards the Thunder River junction and our precious water cache. Along the way, we came to what I think is probably one of two "trees" (i.e., oversized bushes) on the west side of Surprise Valley. The area surrounding it was relatively flat and clear--a better spot than we had scoped out a couple of days earlier--so we dropped our packs around 8:30 pm, and made camp there, while my son and I retrieved our water cache another .25 mi. down the trail. [Note: We passed several flat, clear campsites on the east side of Surprise Valley, closer to the Thunder River descent.]

I was tempted to sleep tent-less again, but my wife convinced me to set up the tent. That was a good call, as I think the smell of our three days on the trail attracted every mosquito for miles around. :kf: Although we were "safe" in our tents, I could hear them all night long, just outside the tent trying to figure out a way in to the fresh meal inside ...

Day 5 (Monday)--Hike from Surprise Valley out
We woke up before dawn on Monday in an attempt to beat the sun up the Redwall to the Esplanade. We were mostly successful, though the sun caught us on the final .25 mi. of the ascent. The trek back across the Esplanade was pleasant. Most of the pools of water we had seen on the way down and dried up in the interim.

Just before we reached the Bill Hall junction, we crossed paths with a ranger who was making his way down canyon to do the loop we were just finishing. He checked our permit. We told him that that Deer Spring was not running, so he could pass that info along to others along the route.

Stopped for lunch at our cache site at the bottom of the final 2.6 mi., 1,700 ft. ascent. Ended up dumping out about 3/4 gallon of the water we cached (after filling up what we needed for the climb, and dousing our hats/shirts/bandanas, etc.).

We made steady progress to the top, and passed a handful of groups on their way down. The "tricky" area 1.5 mi. from the top was much easier to climb up. We celebrated upon topping out at Monument point, but the still had what seemed to be an inordinately long .7 mi. back down to the TH from there.

After stowing our pack and donning our "victory shoes" (sandals), we drove over to the RV campground just south of Jacob Lake and availed ourselves of much needed showers (9 quarters for 5 minutes), before hitting Jacob Lake Inn for well-deserved burgers and fries! Topped it off with a pit stop in Flagstaff for frozen custard at Freddy's.

Arrived home, pooped but supremely satisfied, at 11:30 pm.

What a trip! Going to be hard to top this one! :y:

**Unfortunately, something in my GPS track got corrupted, so I was only able to download the track for the last day. The mileage is what shows on my GPS watch (seems a bit high, but maybe--with various side trips and backtracking at points). AEG is a best guess.
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Bill Hall - Deer Crk - Thunder River - Tapeats
All Aboard!
Dave planned this many moons in advance as required by the asset protection committee. Wally took the liberty to escort us to the land of opportunity. John joined and I knew it would be a fun group all around even if the hike sucked.

Studied up on the route for well over three minutes and invested an hour packing. Since this was to be a leisure pace I loaded up on food. The mind boggling part being that I ate 98.21% of all of it. Over two POUNDS of dehydrated food. A pound of brownies. No fruit or veggies for two and half days solid. Enough salt to cure a small pig rounded out with three tums courtesy of the bicycle bandido... anti cramp solution not heartburn.

Bill Hall
This sick hike takes you up before heading down into Grand Canyon. The distant canyon views to the west are stunning. Not the normal corridor temples and quick dropping ridges. Rather a sea of never ending inset canyons. The zipper switchbacks deliver you to the Esplanade sandstone with it's patches of cryptobiotic soil.

Deer Creek
The landscape of the canyon approaching Deer Spring is inspiring. The patio, narrows and falls are a must see. Albeit touristy...

Deer Camp
Only got down to 57 overnight. A bivvy would have sufficed. This was my favorite camp layout. No rodent or bug issues. Slept almost twice as much as a typical night.

Party Lights
For what seems like eternity my eyes would roll with the mention of these exotic priced Christmas lights. Seeing is believing. They cast a warm glow around camp. It wouldn't be the same without. Just beware you might crave camomile and conversations about sewing patterns.

Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
While not an official trail it is one hell of a walk. The west end perched over the Colorado River is therapy in the morning light.

Thunder River Trail
Na na na na na na na na THUNDER! From 2,000 feet you climb a steep 300 feet then level back into the creek. The raging creek is just awesome in areas with a few small falls or mammoth cascades depending on where you grew up. We took the park recommended east route. The west looked well worn.

Tapeats Creek
The two and half off-trail miles to the cave melted away nearly effortlessly. jlp ood and awed the whole way. I couldn't agree more. My favorite was the tall haphazard falls turning up Tap-its. The grand poobah without a doubt.

Tapeats Upper Camp
Another warmer than imaginable night for late October. Camp mice were on the prowl. I didn't give it a whole lot of thought until one crawled up my back. Shook him off with a heebie jeebie move before he had a chance to summit my shoulder. His intentions to run over my arm out to the food in my hand never panned out.

Needless to say, this was not my favorite No biggie, just comical. Unpacking a day later I found out one invaded my pack too. It was up in a tree. Which I didn't figure would do much good. The food in my thin canister on the ground was fine.

Thunder Falls
My expectations were high. Thunder delivered. Dave and I wanted to check out the cave. Around the initial corner I wasn't sure where to go. Then I contemplated about the water. Getting my feet wet shot lightning fast nightmares of slipping. Dave's stories of a guy that ripped his leg open in the cave were not helping. My four pound camera was cumbersome and and and... no dice, changed my vote to pro-life and got back around the corner onto solid ground!

Bill Hall Round 2
Great trip and I was ready to leave. Descending on day 1, whatever muscle is on the back of the leg at the outer joint was screaming ouie. Playing pack mule isn't my preferred cast role. Most of the treturous descending was on day 1. jlp was an angel lending me his hiking pole. That coupled with steady ibuprofen therapy got me through the days.

We stopped at Jacob Lake for burgers on the way out.

Even though I was Dave's twelfth round pick after twenty four of his closest friends bailed I'm most grateful I got the opportunity to go on this trip! Thanks much!

Thunder near the falls within a week of prime. Down lower through Tapeats is all over the board. Probably something hitting for the next couple weeks based on micro environments.
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Deer Creek / Thunder River
Earlier this summer I talked to Chumley about the fall and we wanted to do a couple of hikes on the North Rim of my beloved Canyon. I would plan North Bass and he would plan Thunder River / Tapeats Creek. We scored the permits and the time flew by.

We left Phoenix on Wednesday morning in two cars (thanks Chumley & Karl for driving!) and made our way to the north rim. The drive to the trailhead took about six hours and that includes a couple of stops. The dirt roads leading to Monument Point are in very good condition and made for fast travel. We covered 33 miles in under an hour. We found a camp about a half mile from the trailhead and car camped overlooking the Canyon. Life is good!

Day 1 – October 16, 2014
We packed up our gear and drove over to Monument Point and started the hike down the Bill Hall Trail. You start by climbing a couple of hundred feet to the high point and then you start the descent. The going is a little rough at first and then the trail levels off as you traverse to the west. After a bit you start the steep descent to the Esplanade. From there we made good time as we headed for the Redwall Break. Along the way we stopped to look for some water pockets. We found one of them but it was muddy and not reliable.

We continued on and hit the break soon after. The view down into Surprise Valley is stunning! This was the scene of an ancient land slide four million years ago. There are three large chunks of Redwall that slid down and appear as large mounds. Our route leads past the west mound. We continued hiking and headed west for Deer Creek. The going is fairly easy and then you start to descend. Our group got spread out but met back up at Deer Spring. This is an amazing area with water pouring directly out of the rock wall. I drank several handfuls of untreated water and it was delicious!

After the spring we made our way to camp and got everything set up. We then headed down to the Deer Creek Narrows and explored the area all the way down to the Colorado River. This is an exceptional area that is truly beautiful! Deer Creek has cut a channel in the Tapeats layer and Deer Creek Falls pours out just a matter of feet from the Colorado. We all returned to camp and settled in for the night. This was a fun day!

Day 2 – October 17, 2014
Our group woke early and noticed the smoke in the air. We guessed the smoke drifted into the Canyon from a controlled burn on the north rim. Our views will be compromised. Chumley, JonnyB & Patrick left camp first so they could explore the narrows again. The rest of us took our time and enjoyed breakfast. We all met at The Patio around 10am and then started the hike to Tapeats Creek. There is an established route all the way. The going was straightforward with amazing views! We stayed on the high route and eventually dropped down to the river. There is a fun scramble about a half mile from Tapeats Creek. Going down would be more difficult.

We eventually hit Tapeats Creek and then started the hike up to the shelf above the creek. From there we made our way north and reconnected to the creek. We continued on and had to make two creek crossings and there were a couple of relatively easy scrambles to shelves above the creek. Before long we reached camp and settled in for the afternoon. Later that day we made the hike up to Thunder River and what a sight it is! Water gushes right out of the rock wall. It was spectacular! Chumley and Karl tried to climb to the top of falls but there is a three foot gap that has zero margin for error. They turned back. I would need to be roped up to cross the gap. Afterward we all returned to camp and that ended day two.

Day 3 – October 18, 2014
This is our layover day. We don’t have to move camp and we have a few options. We could either relax in camp, head back to the Colorado River or head up creek to Tapeats Cave. I chose to go with Chumley and Karl to Tapeats Cave and I’m glad I did! The route was challenging and the scenery spectacular. The cave was very cool. You can see my separate trip report for Tapeats Cave.

Day 4 – October 19, 2014
On our final day in the Canyon, we had to make the 9.5 mile hike back to the rim. Jon & Patrick left camp first around 5:30am. Kyle and Karl left after 6am and Chumley and I headed out around 6:40am. All of us took our time on the hike out. We topped off our water at Thunder River and then continued on to Surprise Valley where the sun finally greeted us. It is a spectacular day! The miles poured by as we hiked back up to the Esplanade and then on to Monument Point. All of us were back to the trailhead well before noon. Our trip has come to an end and what a trip it was!

Thunder River and Deer Creek are an exceptional area that might be my favorite place in the Canyon! There is a huge amount of water flowing through here and it’s a very lush area. I highly recommend spending a few days down here. There is a lot to see and do. You won’t be disappointed!
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Deer Creek / Thunder River
An awesome 4-day backpack loop starting with Deer Creek. Hit the Deer Spring on the way down. Did the narrows to the falls both Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

We took the high route on the traverse across to Lower Tapeats before heading up to Upper Tapeats. Friday afternoon we headed up to check out Thunder River. As I sort of expected, I wasn't able to convince myself to risk the final climb to the cave. Karl tried after me and came to the same conclusion. I'm pretty sure if I watched somebody else do it first it would be no problem. But we had no such guide so that will have to wait for another day.

Saturday was our excursion to Tapeats Cave and Sunday we hiked out early in the day.

In the downtime, we harassed canyon mice and made sure that the liquid weight we had carried in wouldn't slow us down on the way out.

I'm not sure what part of this loop I liked the most. Deer Creek Narrows are special. The falls are incredible. Tapeats Creek is a force to be reckoned with, and the cave is amazing. Thunder River is a wonder. And as always, the massive views the canyon provides can't be beat.

It was a great trip with an awesome group of people! We'll have to do it again! :)

Jon and Patrick posted a video of the trip on their WildernessTV page: It's highly entertaining!
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Deer Creek/Thunder River Loop
This one has been on my list for awhile now.

Quite a hike for only my second real backpack trip...

Dave put together one heck of a trip. Timing on the weather could not have been any better with highs in the 60's and lows in the mid 40's at night. Perfect for my best sleep ever on a hike.

For me, this would be an impossible Day hike. It was brutal in two days for me. My hats off to todak for day hiking this killer loop.

Up at 2am, left North Phoenix at 3 am, stopped in Jacob Lake for some eats (27 degrees) and were at the Monument Point TH, 350 miles later, and on the trail at 10 am at a comfortable 47 degrees.

Pretty awesome looking over the edge and trying to follow the route you'd be taking over the next few days.

A slight climb for 3/4 of a mile before the Bill Hall Trail drops 1700' for the next almost two miles before meeting the Thunder River Trail. At this point you are on the Esplanade of the Supai Layer (You are in Sedona Toto). Mushroom and other unusual rock formations abound. This grade is a nice relief from the loose downhill we just finished and lasts for 3 miles or so.

Now it's time to make your next drop. More uneven steepness that test the muscles you don't normally use.... and then you are in Surprise Valley. We take a lunch break under the only bush big enough to provide any shade.

We start the drop into Deer Creek next. Part way down you start to hear water. Then you come to the top of the Cliff area that Deer Spring is located. Dave hangs precariously off the edge of the Cliff to attempt to get a glimpse. No Luck. When we get below the spring, is actually tucked under a lip in the wall and squirting out nicely. Preston splashes around like a baby bird in the pool.

Deer Creek is a wonderland. Creek, Water, and lush riparian areas quickly change into narrow slot canyon walls. This leads right out to a spot 200' above the Colorado River and Deer Creek Falls. I took a break while the boys went down to check it out.

We started the trek over to our Campsite. We were able to get the majority of our remaining elevation gain for the day done, to the Deer Creek Saddle, just prior to the sun going down. We started the 3+ mile walk in the dark to Tapeats Creek camp. Dave busted out the cairn finder and got us safely across to our camp at the confluence of the Colorado and Tapeats Creek. :y: 8pm at camp

Day 1
13.73 Miles
1,767 AEG
09:25 Time

Day One Video :next:

The Second day started right off the bat on the Thunder River Trail with a 300' climb in less than .15 miles. Tapeats Creek was running nicely and the views were eye opening. Sure glad we did not miss this. The confluence with Thunder River was a bit less than 2.5 miles. We had to cross the creek twice the route we took, but there were options on both sides of the creek in places.

From Tapeats Creek to get to Thunder Spring is a bit of a climb. A little more than 3/4 mile and you are at the Spring. What a site!
Thunder River Spring emerges from the desert cliffs as a spectacular set of waterfalls that cascade 1/2 mile down a steep side canyon to Tapeats Creek.
Thunder River's estimated discharge of 21 million gallons per day (over 240 gallons/second) ranks number 2 for springs on the north side of the Grand Canyon behind Tapeats Spring. Tapeats Spring gushes forth with 48 million gallons per day.

We cooled off and filled our water for the last time. DAve and Preston attempted to get into the spring outlet. No luck this time. The climb out of Thunder Spring was a tease for what was to come.

Across Surprise Valley to our first cache at the Deer Creek/Thunder River intersection, and we had some lunch. Our new friend Gerhart stopped and chatted. He's in from Germany on vacation and this is his 20th straight year in the Canyon. He is 60 years young and was doing the same loop as us, in the same two days.

The first climb up to the Esplanade was as steep as feared. The walk across was once again a nice respite from the steepness. One last climb and we finished just before dark.

Day 2
11.71 Miles
6,455 AEG
09:50 Time

Day Two Video :next:

The BEST! Bacon Cheese Burger ever at Jacobs Lake after the hike. (Dave ordered two meals)

A big thanks to the boys! :y: I provided the truck and Dave, Denny and Preston took care of most of the the Driving and Petrol. (I think they felt guilty that I had to work on 3 hours sleep, and they all had Monday off!)

Some of the trees were beginning to turn
Deer Creek to Tapeats Creek Trail
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Hard to keep track of all the incredible springs, falls and cascades of cool, crystal clear water on this killer loop. Dawn start, then took lots of long breaks at all the good water and shade spots along the way, so the climb out was in the late afternoon and evening. A bit hot on the high bypass segment along the CO River, but the route there is well defined.

Map Drive
Connector trail - Not Applicable

To hike
This route begins at the Deer Creek Patio. Alternately it can be hiked in reverse from the mouth of Tapeats Creek.
page created by chumley on Oct 21 2014 10:53 am
3 pack - loud whistle
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